Press Releases

Rep. Wexton Presses Sec. Mnuchin on Secret IRS Memo

The newly revealed memo says tax returns must be given to Congress unless the president asserts executive privilege, directly contradicting the administration’s legal rationale guidance

Today, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin returned for a continuation of a Financial Services Committee hearing entitled, “The Annual Testimony of the Secretary of the Treasury on the State of the International Financial System.”

Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton (VA-10) pressed Secretary Mnuchin on the previously unknown draft IRS memo regarding the disclosure of tax returns and his defiance of a lawful subpoena request from the Ways and Means Committee.

On the IRS memo, Secretary Mnuchin claimed that he was still determining “who wrote the memo, where it came from, when it was and why it wasn't distributed.”

He also stated under oath that he has never had “conversations—ever—with the president, or anyone in the White House, about delivering the president's tax returns to Congress.”

“It is the responsibility of Congress to legislate and write the laws,” said Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton. “Steven Mnuchin has a separate responsibility as Secretary of the U.S. Treasury to uphold those laws."

“The discovery of this secret memo greatly diminishes an already dubious legal argument to stonewall Congress’ constitutional duty to conduct oversight. Secretary Mnuchin must abide by the law and stop blocking the release of the president’s tax returns.”

The full exchange can be viewed here.

A full transcript of the exchange can be found here:

Rep. Wexton: I'd like to talk a little bit about your refusal to comply with a lawful subpoena from the Ways and Means Committee. As you know, Section 6103(f)(1) says that the Secretary shall furnish the Ways and Means Committee with any return or return information specified in request. You're aware of that, right?

Secretary Mnuchin: [indicates yes]

Rep. Wexton: Okay, and you're also aware that nowhere in that section is the Chairman of Ways and Means required to include a reason, a legislative reason, for the request. You aware of that as well?

Secretary Mnuchin: I've read the language.

Rep. Wexton: But in your letter dated May 17th to Chairman Neal, you rely on advice from the DOJ in determining that the request lacks a legitimate legislative purpose, is that correct?

Secretary Mnuchin: That is correct.

Rep. Wexton: Now you understand that that we're the legislative branch, so we make decisions about legislating, right?

Secretary Mnuchin: I understand that there are three branches of government and they perform different functions.

Rep. Wexton: And you're the Executive Branch, right?

Secretary Mnuchin: That is correct.

Rep. Wexton: Which executes the laws. You don't make the laws. We make the laws. 

We learned last night of a second opinion which was written by the IRS Chief Counsel's office. Are you aware that letter? Of that memo?

Secretary Mnuchin: I became aware of that memo when we got an inquiry from The Washington Post. And it was just recently published. I'm not sure who the author of that was. But I've seen it in the Washington Post.

Rep. Wexton: So when did the Washington Post inquire...  

Secretary Mnuchin: I believe the day before yesterday, they called us up and we confirmed that I and the Commissioner were not aware of that letter, and had not seen it.

Rep. Wexton: But you have, since that time, reviewed that memo?

Secretary Mnuchin: Actually I haven't reviewed it. I looked at it literally on the way up here. Someone handed me the printed copy of it. So I would not describe that as I've reviewed it.

Rep. Wexton: Did somebody make you aware that the memo states that the law does not require that the Ways and Means Committee Finance Chair or JCT Chief of Staff include a reason or purpose for the request?

Secretary Mnuchin: Again, let me just say the legal advice that we've relied upon and again, I understand there's three branches of government and when it comes to constitutional issues there could be different interpretations. And that's why there's a third branch of government to interpret.

Rep. Wexton: I'm sorry. Reclaiming my time. You are at least aware that the conclusion of that memo, directly contradicts the conclusion that you're relying upon?

Secretary Mnuchin: I actually don't believe that's the case. That memo, I understand, is addressing a different issue and is not addressing the issue that we in the Department of Justice looked at. But again, let me just say this is not a letter that came to our attention earlier...

Rep. Wexton: Madam Chair, reclaiming my time. Who at the IRS would have made the decision not to run this memo up the chain?

Secretary Mnuchin: I have no idea.

Rep. Wexton: Are you going to plan to find that out?

Secretary Mnuchin: We're trying to find out who wrote the memo, where it came from, when it was and why it wasn't distributed. Yes.

Rep. Wexton: Have you had any conversations with the president at any time, during your, prior to your confirmation, or today about your desire or willingness to provide the president's tax returns to Congress?

Secretary Mnuchin: I have had no conversations—ever—with the president, or anyone in the White House, about delivering the president's tax returns to Congress.